Holiday Writing Project: Creating Treasured Keepsakes

Holiday Keepsakes with Shurley English.jpg

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to help your students show appreciation for someone special in their lives by creating a special, handmade memento.

I’ve got a great activity that will take your students through the entire writing process to create a heartwarming essay to share with their loved ones.  Here are the details…

1. Prewriting:  Explain the purpose, audience, and how to select a topic. 

a. Know your purpose:  The purpose of this writing is to describe why you are thankful for a certain loved one.  The genre is Descriptive Writing.

b. Know your audience:  The primary reader will be the person(s) you choose to write about.

c. Choose your topic: Who are you thankful for?

Then, help your students use the graphic organizer to gather details to write about. Using a graphic organizer will help your students narrow the topic, gather details, and organize the details.  (I have included a graphic organizer for you to use at the conclusion of this post!) Some main point suggestions might be: 

I remember when…

You made me smile when…

Thank you for the gift of…

Without you, I…

2. Rough Draft: Have students incorporate the Traits of Effective Writing as they write the rough draft:

a. Ideas: Write the ideas from your prewriting map in complete sentences.  Add interesting details to support main points.

b. Organization: Develop an engaging introduction, a powerful body, and a strong conclusion.  Have a clear topic sentence for each paragraph.  Arrange sentences and paragraphs in a logical order, using transition words to link ideas, opinions, reasons, or events.

c. Word Choice: Use precise nouns and verbs to engage the reader’s imagination.  Use vivid adjectives and adverbs to create strong mental pictures.  Use prepositional phrases to add more detail and description.

d. Voice: Use word choices to express ideas in different ways.  Use similes, metaphors, or personification to add contrast and interest.

e. Sentence Fluency: Use a variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences.  Use varying sentence lengths and different sentence patterns.

f. Conventions: Follow the rules of capitalization and punctuation.  Use correct spelling, usage, and grammar.

3. After students compose their rough drafts, have them partner up to work through the revision process to improve the content of their writing with better word choice and improved sentence structure.

4. Next, have them work on editing with their partners. They will be looking for mistakes to correct in the conventions of writing: capitalization, punctuation, usage, spelling, and grammar.

5. As they rewrite to create their final copy, and they think about the look of their finished piece, you may suggest various ways that they can decorate their works as they tap into their artistic side. For example, they could create a wax resist using leaves, crayons, white paper, and water colors.  (I have provided instructions for this project below.) Don’t forget to add a title! Here’s an idea if your students are stuck: “I am Thankful for You!”

6. Finally, your students will publish or share their writing pieces with their special someone.

This holiday writing piece is sure to be a treasured keepsake for the recipient! In addition, your students have had a great time reflecting on someone important in their lives while working through the writing process. That’s a win-win!

Descriptive Writing map with Shurley English.png
Wax Resist Project with Shurley English.png
Comment /Source

Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.